Winter has well and truly hit us in Edinburgh, and it has got us reminiscing about holidays past. We thought it would be fun to ask the SnapDragon team for their top recommendations of places to visit in 2020. So, if you haven’t decided on your next holiday, read on below for some stellar recommendations.
(AO, Business Development)
Singapore is often described as clinically clean, eye-wateringly expensive and excessively corporate; The city state was a destination that I was, almost universally, told I wouldn’t enjoy. Having visited this time last year, it’s clear that this advice was from people that can’t have ventured far from Orchard Road and its luxury malls. The countless gardens, modern museums and diverse neighbourhoods have so much to offer and a day in the city can feel like visiting 6 different countries. Little India and China Town should not be missed, but I am particularly confident that anyone who has the joy of exploring the Joo Chiat and Katong area, would quickly see another side to Singapore. The diverse neighbourhood in East Singapore, is a far cry from the modern city centre megalopolis – the streets aren’t pristine or quiet, the buildings are short, traditional and colourful; whilst the businesses are local, cheap and independent. It is home to diverse cuisines and cultures, and locals and backpackers of all cultures fill the colourful restaurants, bars and hawkers. Bring your Instagram account and a fistful of cash and, so long as you love to eat, chat and drink, you will struggle not to be delighted by the tastes, smells, sights and people you encounter.
There are countless great eateries and bars but here are two places you absolutely shouldn’t skip:
1. The 1925 Brewing Co – 261 Joo Chiat Road
Serving Singaporean craft beers, alongside a mouth-watering Teochew-fusion food menu of tapas style plates, The 1925 Brewing Co offers something a little different to the restaurants and bars in the area. Whilst it is on the expensive side for the neighbourhood, the ambience, attention to detail and unique beers make it worth the price. Desert lovers, try the tiramisu, you won’t regret it!
2. Birds of Paradise – 63 East Coast Road
Without doubt the best ice cream parlour I have ever been to. You will smell it before you see it, although the long queue is hard to miss, as they bake their waffle cones, infused with Thyme, on site spilling the sweet herbal aroma out onto the busy street. Exotic flavours like garam masala and chrysanthemum are as worth sampling as their takes on classics like (salted) dark chocolate and strawberry (with basil).
I’m hardly a sun chaser, but still in favour of a lazy holiday with good food and plenty of downtime to relax by the pool. I like having the option to absorb local history and culture on my own schedule. In 2016, I learned that Iceland is an ideal destination for me. I’ve been three times now, and I’d recommend it to anyone, but make sure you’re wrapped up warm!
If it’s your first time travelling to Iceland, go in late October. The weather will still be cold, but there won’t be so much snow, and the sun is more likely to have risen by breakfast time. Icelandic people are very welcoming, and often have a wry, blunt sense of humour. Most people speak flawless English, but it is worth knowing “takk fyrir” means “thank you”.
Reykjavík is a great city, and I’d recommend you spend half your time in the city itself, as well as going further afield. The city is tiny, and is best explored on foot. A walk by the coast, past the Sun Voyager sculpture to Harpa opera house will offer stunning vistas. The imposing church Hallgrímskirkja, where a lift up the spire offers a unique view on the city below. Further out from the centre is Laugardalslaug; a great place to relax in a hot pool as the sun goes down.
Reykjavík has a whole host of amazing food, so long as you enjoy fish. Traditional Icelandic fare with a modern twist is best had from Matur og Drykkur. Rok and Mat Bar offer Nordic twists on tapas, I’d especially recommend Rok as a lunch choice. The Icelandic also make amazing coffee, and Reykjavík Roasters is the cream of the crop.
Several companies offer bus trips out of Reykjavík to popular tourist destinations. I’d recommend the Blue Lagoon and Þingvellir national parks. The Blue Lagoon is a true “cannot-miss”, spend a full day relaxing in it’s 40°C waters. Þingvellir is the original home of the oldest parliament on earth, dating back to 930AD. The dramatic meeting of continental plates leads to a breathtaking and alien landscape. I don’t imagine the first parliaments being particularly comfortable experiences.
Snæfellsness and Raufarhólshellir are reminders of Iceland’s volcanic past. It’s possible to climb Snæfellsjökull, though don’t worry – the last eruption was 1800 years ago. The lava tunnels of Raufarhólshellir were once thought to lead into Hel, you’ll see why when you’re down in the dark.
Iceland is not a cheap country by any means, and organised excursions can be very costly. Over my visits, I’ve noticed a few tricks that help can make savings without putting a damper on the trip. A main meal at lunchtime will still give plenty of less expensive, and delicious, food options. Almost all bars have happy hours, when the price for alcoholic drinks is at a more palatable level. Reykjavík is a great short break and many airlines now offer a longer stopover for no extra cost.
Les Gorges du Tarn, France
(Laura, Brand Protection)
Looking for a break surrounded by mountains, falls and lovely villages? Then you should really think about the “Gorges du Tarn” as your next destination. Located in Lozère, in the South of France, this region is the perfect place for holidays with family or friends. Hiking in the forest, canoeing and discovering lovely french villages is what you can do best there And after a long day, you will find a lot of local restaurants to enjoy local food and wine…! It’s definitely worth a trip!
Pointe d’Esny – Mauritius
(Laura, Brand Protection)
During this cold winter, would you fancy walking bare feet in the warm water, eating delicious fried noodles on the beach or scuba-diving with tropical fish? I would! Between the turquoise sea and the mountains on the horizon, Pointe d’Esny is a perfect escape. Lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in the South of Mauritius, this little fishing village has a lot to offer. If you are looking for a change of pace on the other side of the world, Pointe d’Esny is waiting for you. As for me, I can’t wait to be back in this heavenly place!
Cali es Cali
(Bernie, Brand Protection)
Thinking of the holiday season makes me want to return to a place which I could best describe as heaven on Earth – Cali, the heart and soul of Colombia. Situated in the south-west of the country, it has everything one could ask for: wonderful warm climate, smiling people, a superb street food scene, mountains and national parks nearby for active leisure opportunities and, most importantly – salsa.
If you are one of those people who like to switch off their phones, forget about all worries back home and fully immerse themselves in the local way of life, Cali is the place to be. Bearing in mind that stereotypes are often not all that true, I have asked a few city residents whether salsa dancing is really what every Cali native loves. “Si. Cali es Cali. Enjoy,” I heard every time, and after having a generous glass of the local Chicha (a fermented sour milk-like grain beverage that is a lot more appetizing than it sounds), I was led to a 1970s film-resembling dancehall where Cali ladies and gentlemen were turning their office attire into fancy dress outfits to suit the atmosphere.
Yes, everyone there looked like they have been attending professional dance schools since at least the age of two, but despite the incredible skill on display, even those who could not walk ten meters without tripping over invisible obstacles were made to feel welcome and encouraged (it may or may not have been me).
If stepping out of your comfort zone and spicing things up sounds like your cup of tea, I would highly recommend to add Cali to the top of your bucket list!
The volcanic activity in ancient years has endowed Milos island with an exciting variety of gorgeous landscapes, consequently offering the visitor a wide range of activities. The funny shapes of the rocks and their wonderful colours at the beautiful white sandy beaches are one expression of the volcanic features of Mílos; the economic activity is another: minerals such as obsidian are excavated here. What is more, one of the most ancient mines in the Mediterranean is on this island.
The island’s villages are lovely too: the stately Pláka (the island’s capital), the harbour of Adámantas, the beautiful Hivadolímni, the marvellous Emporiós with the little lagoon of Revary and the old iron mines. One of the perks of this island, is the plethora of beaches you can visit. Among them stands out Kléftiko with its turquoise waters and Sarakíniko with white sharp rocks cutting deep into a sheer cliff; add the unique lunar landscapes, the rocky secluded caves, the mysterious catacombs, the “sleeping” volcanoes and a picturesque Cycladic Chóra and experience a unique version of romance
Crescent-shaped Santorini, the precious gem of the Aegean, is actually a group of islands consisting of Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni in the southernmost part of Cyclades. The whole complex of Santorini islands is still an active volcano and probably the only volcano in the world whose crater is in the sea.
Santorini is considered to be the most sought after place for a romantic getaway in Greece, since there are not many places in the world where you can enjoy exquisitely clear waters while perched on the rim of a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea! Venture into Santorini’s seaside treasures and enjoy deep blue waters and beaches with white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and impressive lunar landscapes.
Firá is the picturesque capital of the island; perched high up on the edge of the Caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Firá, together with Oia, Imerovígli and Firostefáni located high above on a cliff, make up the so-called “Caldera’s eyebrow”, the balcony of Santorini, which offers an amazing view of the volcano. Other famous smaller villages are Akrotíri and Méssa Vounó, with their famous archaeological sites, Pýrgos, Karterádes, Emporió, Ammoúdi, Finikiá, Períssa, Perívolos, Megalohóri, Kamári, Messariá and Monólithos: some of the villages are cosmopolitan some more peaceful; they are surrounded by vast vineyards; whitewashed cliff-top towns with castles affording amazing views out over the Aegean. Soaking up the villages’ distinctive traditional atmosphere is a very rewarding experience.
By Rachel Jones